Would they see the stretch marks that run rivers over my thighs? The noticeable white lines, some small and some large, that characterize the ever-changing size of muscles that atrophied throughout the years, replacing those of the high school runner with those of the biweekly gym attendee?
What about the ever-present cellulite that nestles between the nonexistent thigh gap or hiding just at the edge of the bikini bottom waiting to peek out from underneath the fabric?
© Maria Colon
Would they see the not-so-perfectly toned tummy? What about the somewhat toned upper abs, paired with an unforgiving C-section scar and muscle repair? Would they see the not-quite-flabby, but not-so-muscular physique of a mother who gave life through a surgical birth? Would they sneer at those features?
What about my burned, barely tanned skin? The slightly dry, overly freckled skin exposed in places that haven’t seen daylight in months. Would calls for sunblock and cover-ups be typed into comment boxes and liked by mutual friends?
Would there be those who looked at the tattoos, seven in total, with judgment and disdain? Some might think all those tattoos on my ribs and back make me a terrible mother, one devoid of clear judgment and moral values.
Would they see the self-conscious, not-so-confident woman I sometimes see when I look in the mirror? The mother of two who could once run a six-minute mile and complete hundreds of crunches without breaking a sweat? Or would they see the strong, independent mama bear ready to defend her cubs? Would they see a confident woman—a woman who loves every inch of her skin, who is comfortable with her tattoos, her stretch marks and her scars?
© Maria Colon
What would my friends notice? What would they see?
Today I wore a bikini to the beach, and I posted the picture on Facebook. No one noticed the stretch marks. No one commented on the cellulite. No one commented on the tattoos or the sunburn. What did they notice? What did my friends comment on? The smiles on my children’s faces, the pure joy reflected in all of our family photos, the fun we were having in the Florida sun, and that makes me proud. It makes me proud of this family I have built and, more importantly, proud of my body. I have never been more proud of my body. Without it, those smiles wouldn’t exist. This body grew and gave life. It has survived almost 30 years of sports, scars and scuffles. It has bounced back from babies and surgeries, sleepless nights and 2-year olds. I might not be a tiger, but I have damn sure earned each and every stripe and stretch mark on my body. There is nothing more beautiful than that.